Manual Lymphatic Drainage
The lymph system helps to absorb proteins, fats, and vitamins, filter cells and fluid then return it to your cardiovascular system, and support the immune system. You can think of it as an aquarium and when the fluid in your aquarium becomes too stagnant, it allows wastes and other materials to build up and impede effective fluid flow and nutrient absorption.
Keeping your lymph system healthy helps your body defend against disease and infection. It will give the immune system a boost and can aid in any cleansing program. It calms the inflammatory response and supports the body’s own mechanism to detoxify. MLD helps the body to recover faster by stimulating the immune and drainage mechanisms. Through the pumping and stretching effect on the lymph vessels, MLD makes lymph flow faster and also stimulates the formation of new connections between lymph vessels.
Why you should consider MLD?
It benefits infants to the elderly, sedentary to the athletic, preventative care to acute traumas, and post surgery to chronic conditions.
It can be effective for many conditions including:
Stress Reduction/Anxiety Sprains, Strains, & Bruises
Post Surgical Swelling Arthritis
Acne/Eczema Pain Relief
Immune system support Athletic recovery (ie. marathon)
Fibrocystic breast disease Burns & Scars
Pregnancy edema Certain autoimmune diseases
Chronic fatigue syndrome Tension & Migraine Headaches
Tinnitus Lyme disease
Chronic regional pain syndrome
Chronic Venous Insufficiency (varicose veins) & tired legs
Lymphedema* (does not include complicated lymphedema conditions)
Boost immune system
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Lymphatic massage is very gentle, calming, and relaxing. It uses rhythmic strokes and pumping movements towards the direction of your lymph nodes and pathways designed to increase the movement of your lymph and decrease the fluid between your cells. Due to its gentle nature, this technique is not painful and if it is, please let your therapist know. The specialized technique is called manual lymph drainage (MLD) and was developed by Dr. Emil and Estrid Vodder in the 1930’s.
* Not all therapists are qualified or trained to provide this service.
Depending on your needs, look for:
Certified Manual Lymph Drainage Therapist (CMLDT)
Complete Decongestion Therapy (CDT) - CLT-LANA (Certified Lymphedema Therapist, Lymphology Association of North America)
What to expect before MLD?
On the day of your session (and after) your session, please avoid coffee, tea, soda, and sugary drinks. Please wear or bring a tank top and shorts as this is best performed on the skin without oils or lotions. Before your session we will discuss any concerns or new experiences you may have. Also, please also visit the bathroom prior to your session as this work will likely increase urination temporarily.
What to expect during your MLD session?
Prior to the hands-on work, you may have circumference measurements taken and a skin assessment for edema and tissue quality. While you are on the table, you will be draped for warmth and may have a wedge under your limbs for slight elevation. In the event of skin related issues, a barrier such as a towel, will be used or the area will be avoided.
The therapist will use gentle, rhythmic skin stretching strokes. As mentioned, this work is relaxing so you may doze off. You may also experience sensations such as warmth or sensitivities as lymph structures can let you know when they are not functioning well. Typically the techniques will start around your neck and collar bone and move to your armpit/axilla, torso, and limbs, then reversing that order while ending at the neck.
Sessions typically last 30 - 90 minutes and the frequency of the sessions is based on an individual's situation.
What to expect after your MLD session?
You will likely go to the bathroom again soon after the session and perhaps more frequently during the remainder of the day. Please hydrate with water for several days after your session. You may also feel lighter, warmer, have more energy at the end of the day, and have less achy feelings. It is possible, however, that you may not feel well, perhaps nauseated, after the work. Please let your therapist know if that happens.
Over time with this work, you may also notice a decrease in swelling and improved circulation.
In addition to the MLD therapy, you will be given more information about lifestyle strategies and self care to help control edema. It's important that you help support your lymph outside of this work so that the MLD can be more effective. A combination of supporting your lymph through self-care and weekly sessions for about a month, depending on the situation, can be very helpful.
How quickly will I feel the impact of a session?
This type of body work takes time as your condition did not happen overnight. As a result you will likely need several sessions and perhaps multiple sessions a week. Controlling edema and countering your daily activities can be difficult and your specific situation will dictate the path forward.
Self-Care for your Lymph System
1. Move regularly. Exercise such as cardio or lifting weights is helpful to move your lymph as is simply keep moving by walking or other movement practices such as Qi Gong and yoga.
2. Reduce stress. Stress typically adds tension to the tissues of your body and that usually restricts fluid flow.
3. Sweat daily. If you sweat daily you are likely moving to create the sweat and/or have increased body temperature which helps to move fluid too.
4. Hydrate. If you are dehydrated there is less body fluid and therefore less lymph and its benefits.
5. Eat well. Think real food, that comes off a plant/tree.
6. Dry brush. The ideal time to do this is after a shower and directly on your skin. You can use a soft brush or wool socks on your hands.
7. Take care of your skin and nails. This is to prevent infections.
8. Get a lymphatic massage. 😃
MLD is highly effective in reducing swelling, bruising, and pain as well as accelerating recovery time before and after orthopedic, cosmetic, and most other surgical procedures.
Orthopedic surgeries - joint replacements, joint reconstructions/repairs, etc.
Cosmetic surgeries - tummy tuck, liposuction, face lift, breast augmentation/reduction/reconstruction, Brazilian butt lift, face lift, etc.
Specific benefits of MLD for cosmetic surgery:
- Bruising reduction: accelerated healing of bruises allowing earlier return to normal activities without
hiding the bruising
- Edema reduction: MLD assists rerouting of lymph fluid to viable pathways unaffected by surgery
allowing accelerated edema reduction
- Pain management: Reduces pain by decreasing swelling and pressure allowing for less pain
- Scar tissue reduction: Reduces the scarring process by moving fluid that would potentially otherwise
buildup and contribute to scar formation
- Infection prevention: Reduces stagnating lymph which can lead to infection and additional
medications or procedures
MLD about 1 week prior to your surgery to support the immune system and control swelling.
MLD starting about 72 hours after surgery if cleared by your physician. (No fever, complications, or medicine conflicts) Ideally, permission from your physician to remove compression garments for the treatments is best for hand contact but the treatment can be done over the garments.
Continue MLD 2-3 times per week during the initial healing phase.
Gradually move to a maintenance regiment to once a week, once a month, or once a quarter.
Did you know there is a relationship between the lymph function and adipose tissue?
Obesity is a very complex issue which may involve lipedema and lymphedema.
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